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The Growth and Decay of Equatorial Backscatter Plumes.
Topical rept. 1 Jul-1 Oct 79,
SRI INTERNATIONAL MENLO PARK CA
Pagination or Media Count:
During the past three years, a series of rocket experiments from the Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands, were conducted to investigate the character of intense, scintillation-producing irregularities that occur in the nighttime equatorial ionosphere. Because the source mechanism of equatorial irregularities, believed to be the Rayleigh-Taylor instability, is analogous to that which generates plasma-density striations in a nuclear-induced environment, there is considerable interest in the underlying physics that controls the characteristics of these irregularities. A primary objective of ALTAIR investigations of equatorial irregularities is to seek an understanding of the underlying physics by establishing the relationship between meter-scale irregularities detected by ALTAIR, and the large-scale plasma-density depletions or bubbles that contain the kilometer-scale, scintillation-producing irregularities. We describe the time evolution of backscatter plumes produced by one-meter equatorial field-aligned irregularities. Using ALTAIR, a fully steerable backscatter radar, to repeatedly map selected plumes, we characterize the dynamic behavior of plumes in terms of growth and a decay phase. Most of the observed characteristics are found to be consistent with equatorial-irregularity generation predicted by current theories of Rayleigh-Taylor and gradient-drift instabilities. However, other characteristics have been found that suggest key roles played by the eastward neutral wind and by altitude-modulation of the bottomside F layer in establishing the initial conditions for plume growth.
APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE